2018-03-29 / Opinion

Editorial

Letting them Down or Raising Them Up?


Stoneman Douglas High School students and alums, on shuttle bus. (L to R ) Samanta Yuen, Sabrina Yuen, Graciela Santiago-Mesa, Giovanna Yuen, Daniel Constantino, Joseph Grande, Ava DiGilio. Stoneman Douglas High School students and alums, on shuttle bus. (L to R ) Samanta Yuen, Sabrina Yuen, Graciela Santiago-Mesa, Giovanna Yuen, Daniel Constantino, Joseph Grande, Ava DiGilio. Valentine's Day, 2018. Assault weapon fire rings out at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida.

Those of us in front of computers, or watching TV, or listening to the radios in our cars hold our breath as the reports come across.

A shooter is spraying the bullets of an AR-15 at the students and staff at Stoneman-Douglas, and in a handful of minutes, it is over. Seventeen are left dead, 14 of them students, and the shooter is eating at McDonald's.

Now it's time to own it: we have let our children down.

Dateline: Washington, D.C., March 24, 2018.

They have come from every state in the nation, have come with parents, grandparents, teachers, principals, and alums from their schools. They are our country’s children. And they are our hope, even though we have let them down. This generation of marchers may not have seen wars like Korea, Vietnam, or World War II, but they have seen war. Some have seen it in their neighborhoods, dodging bullets in the playground, and now in their schools. They have seen war. And it sits in their eyes.

We shuttle over from our bus to the rally. There is a group of kids with us from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where this #NeverAgain movement was born. They look like every child, except for the sadness in their eyes, and remind me that some of our local children will also be at the march that day, like Middletown teen Jessica Sabatino (“Middletown Student to March on DC,” NTW, March 22, 2018)

I ask them if going back to school after the Feb. 14 shooting was hard for them. Sabrina Yuen, a senior, speaks up. “You think you’re fine. And then you’re not... They’re going to listen to us. If not here, if not today, then in the votes.”

These kids are not the kids of our childhood. They are far more self-possessed about their fight for peace. Because they’ve seen war right here at home.

Streams and streams of never-ending marchers with their signs fill every space on Pennsylvania Avenue. The chants are deafening: “Enough Is Enough! Enough Is Enough!”

One man holds a sign that reads, “Gun Owner For Stricter Gun Control.” I ask him why he’s here. “Because I want gun control. Look, I’m a farmer,” he says. “I need my gun. Coyote get in the sheep, I need my gun. I don’t need an AR-15. Nobody does.”

The last speaker is Emma Gonzalez, the Parkland shooting survivor who gained widespread attention for her vociferous refusal to be placated about this issue. "Six minutes and twenty seconds with an AR-15 and my friend Carmen would never complain to me about piano practice. Aaron Feis would never call Kira, 'Miss Sunshine…'

When she has named all of the dead, she stares into the crowd, tears streaming down her face.

No one moves. No one speaks. The helicopters swoop and hover overhead.

"Since the time that I came out here,” she said, her voice echoing out over the silence, “it has been six minutes and twenty seconds. The shooter has ceased shooting and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape, and walk free for an hour before arrest. Fight for your life before it’s somebody else’s job." And she turns and exits the stage.

We may have let them down, but they’re not going to let us down.

P. Udoma

This editorial was excerpted from “Present Tense: Marching for Our Lives,” which appears on NewportNow.online.

Return to top